Making Plants Grow Rather Than Die

Gardening

Like other living things, plants have certain requirements for good health. For example, they require the right amounts of sunlight, moisture, and nutrients. Plants also need an equitable range of temperatures, neither too hot nor too cold.

You can meet their needs in one of two methods when choosing plants,

The Backward Method

Choose your favorite plants and try to adjust the growing conditions at the planting place to fit their requirements. (Incorporate spray irrigation, fertilizer, carry in fresh dirt, prune certain trees, or cover plants with blankets in the winter to adjust the growing circumstances.)

The Most Effective Strategy

Examine the circumstances at the planting site first, and then select plants that thrive there. The better you match plants to the planting site, the longer they’ll live, the better they’ll look, and the less work you’ll have to do to care for them (watering, pruning, fertilizing, and controlling pests).

Microclimates and Climate

On a large and small scale, you must match a plant to a planting place. A plant must be adapted to the general climate of the area in which it lives on a big scale.

Can the plant tolerate the low temperatures of winter and the scorching heat of summer? Is the annual rainfall sufficient to keep the plant alive, or will additional irrigation be required? Understanding your climate is a crucial part of gardening success.

Can the plant grow well in the specific climate of your yard or the planting site on a smaller scale? Microclimates, or smaller climates, can differ significantly from the main climate of your location.

For example, your house’s northern side may cast shadows that make it cooler and shadier than its southern side. Alternatively, the reflected heat from a white, west-facing wall can make a planting location several degrees warmer than the rest of the yard.

In the Sun or in the Shadow

For optimum growth, all plants require light. Plants, on the other hand, require different amounts of light.

Many plants require at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. Plants that don’t get enough sunlight to grow leggy (long, spindly stems) as if they’re reaching for more light. Plants that don’t get enough sunshine have a hard time blooming.

Some plants prefer to spend the entire day in the shade (or for at least part of the day). Shade comes in a variety of forms, each of which provides a distinct microclimate. Consider the region on the east side of your home, for example. This area is sunny and warm for at least half of the morning. The same spot is shaded in the afternoon.

The west side of the home is usually the polar opposite, with gloomy mornings and bright, sunny afternoons. On the north side of the house, there is heavy, all-day shade, and you can find filtered shade under trees. Shades can alter with the seasons as trees lose their leaves and the sun moves over the horizon, further complicating the situation. Some generally sun-loving plants prefer at least partial midday shade in the hottest climes.

To make matters even more complicated, a plant’s shade tolerance varies by area as well as individual garden conditions. When planted in warm southern climes, many plants that require full sun in cool northern climates (or along the coast) tolerate or require some afternoon shade.

Water and Soil

Soil moisture is intimately tied to the type of soil in your gardens, such as heavy clay or porous sand. Whether you look out your window and see desert, snow, or palm trees, you may find plants that are well adapted to practically every situation.

Although wet, damp clay soil is difficult to remediate, certain plants can survive and even thrive in it. It’s usually a lot easier to choose plants that meet existing soil conditions rather than trying to change the plant to fit the existing conditions.

Native Plants

Growing native plants exemplifies the notion of selecting plants that are suited for the site. Plants that grow naturally in a certain region or location are known as natives. These plants have become brilliantly suited to the particular conditions of the locations to which they are native over hundreds (possibly thousands) of years.

Native plants flourish with health and vigor in those environments, or in similar areas, without the assistance of gardeners, characteristics that make them extremely valuable as landscape plants.

Native plants are becoming increasingly popular in many locales, especially in the arid western United States.

Nonnative plants that are thirsty are impractical in these places because they consume too much water, which is a scarce resource. Natural vegetation in the area can survive on what nature supplies. And it’s always a good idea to conserve natural resources.

Birds, butterflies, squirrels, and other local animals rely on native plants for food and shelter, so using native plants benefits them as well. Many retail nurseries will gladly assist you in choosing native plants. Native flora, particularly wildflowers, are also included in certain mail-order catalogs.

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